The following list of “Top 5 Cameras for YouTube” is guaranteed to rock your video content! Although the overall production value of YouTube has increased tremendously over the past two years, with more videos being shot on Red Epic’s, Scarlet’s, and Arri Alexa’s than ever before, I would recommend the following five cameras for anyone who’s starting to make their own content, depending on their different filmmaking needs, and price range. These are all solid cameras that are industry-standard for the particular types of content they’re intended for, and the list is sorted with the lowest-priced cameras starting first.
Skimming through this list you may wonder if I have an endorsement deal with Canon. I do not! The truth is my first manual photography camera was a Nikon FM-2. I loved that camera, and I still prefer it over Canon’s equivalent model, the Canon AE-1. When I decided to purchase my first DSLR photography camera, I again went with a Nikon, and purchased a Nikon D-50. This was right on the cusp of the DSLR filmmaking revolution, and my camera did NOT capture video; the standard low-budget filmmaking camera at the time was the Canon XL2.
When it was time for me to buy my first DSLR with video capabilities, I bought my first Canon camera ever, and went with the Canon 5d Mark II. I have not been disappointed. The general industry consensus is that Nikon cameras are better for still photography, mostly due to their line of Nikkor lenses, and that Canons are better for video. I have seen filmmakers shooting Canon cameras using adapters to mount Nikkor lenses onto a Canon body, which I’ve seen lead to beautiful cinematic results.
This is the industry-standard camera for vloggers – who knew there was such a thing?! I personally own a higher-end model of this camera, a Canon Powershot S100 – $300.00. They both shoot full 1080p HD Video, and have surprisingly decent audio quality. The reason I went with the S100 for video was that it has a significantly larger sensor, and it has a customizable ring by the lens of the camera, which I set to focal length so I can move the ring from a 24mm to 35mm to 50mm, etc. I don’t know why that feature makes me so happy, but it does! It feels more “filmmaker-y” when shooting automatic video on a easy to use camera.
These PowerShots are great for “Behind the Scenes” videos, since the cast and crew can easily pick one up, and start shooting BTS. The reason why these cameras have become so popular with vloggers is because they’re portable, and easy to use when using it front-faced and walking – though that may take some coordination! The main disadvantage to this camera is that they are hard to stabilize, and can produce a shaky image. You have to practice really stabilizing this camera with the palm of your hand since any outside stabilization equipment my be overkill at this level of camera.
For $200, you cannot go wrong with Apple’s newest iPhone release. The iSight camera captures 1080p HD video, and Apple significantly improved its front-facing camera, so it now records 720p HD. The main advantage of this camera is that it’s mostly likely to be always near you. The audio quality is acceptable, especially if it’s for a vlog, or other reality-based content, where you can layer music underneath. You can also thank the ability to capture high quality videos on your cell phone for the latest Vine social media trend! Only now that the audio/video quality is high across most smart phones could a social media platform like that really take off.
The Canon T3i 600d is the newer model released following the popular T2i 60d. With a flip-out side screen, this camera is more ideal for vloggers who want a little more pizzazz than a Powershot, and also want to monitor themselves to see if they’re in focus or not while they are filming. This camera also records slow-motion, which a Canon 5d surprisingly cannot, so this makes it a popular choice for action videos, especially since it does not have that shallow depth of field, making more things in focus. For action and comedy, you often want more of the picture to be in focus, so this may be a better camera for you if that’s what you’re creating. The flip-out screen also allows you to do lower or higher angles more easily while monitoring the composition and focus with the screen.
I would recommend the 7d for anyone who’s interested in not only filming content for themselves, but also interested in being hired to film content for other people. This is now entering the land of professional DSLR video cameras. The movie “Tiny Furniture” was shot on this camera, however they used high-grade lenses to achieve a more filmic, composed look. At this level, you may want to consider buying the body of the camera only, and investing in some prime lenses, or a constant aperture zoom lens, that allows you to zoom without the flicker that may happen in variable aperture zoom lenses (including the kit lens). The 7d also does slow motion, which is something to consider, since the 5d does not. It has the same battery as the 5d, which makes it more compatible as a second camera to the 5d than to a Canon T3i.
The main thing to note is that this camera has a “crop sensor”, not a “full frame sensor” which is what makes the 5d so revolutionary. Meaning, if you take a regular 50mm camera lens, and place if on a Canon 5d, the resulting image will be a true 50mm (which is the lens most equivalent to the human eye, and a favorite lens of Hitchcock). However, if you take that same 50mm lens, and put it on a Canon 7d, the result will look more like an 80mm lens; the image will appear more zoomed in, or “cropped”. You can buy crop-framed lenses made for the Canon 7d, or T3i, but they will not work when you put them on a 5d. The full-frame sensor will see “the crop”, and their will be a black ring around your image.
Even though the Canon 5d Mark III has already been released, I would still recommend the Mark II because the price is significantly lower, and you’re still getting a full-frame camera. The Mark III did not have any significant audio upgrades, still making the Mark II a solid choice for indie filmmaking. The 5d is for the filmmaker who wants a real “film look” to their videos. This is the camera that caused the filmmaking DSLR revolution in the first place, so it’ll still be a solid investment for years to come.